Garden State (15)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner22/10/2004

Four out of Five stars
Running time: 102 mins

Funny, romantic, quirky and moving, this is a well written, beautifully acted film that marks Braff out as a talent to watch.

Prior to the Stateside release of Garden State, writer-director Zach Braff was only really known as “that guy off Scrubs”, the medical comedy show where he played J.D. One critical and (relatively) commercial hit later, however and suddenly he’s being spoken of as “the new Woody Allen”, presumably because of his triple-hitting ability in the acting, writing and directing departments.

For once, however, the plaudits are justified, because Garden State is a thoroughly enjoyable romantic comedy / drama with a performance by Natalie Portman that is practically incandescent.

Moderately Successful Actor Returns Home For Funeral

Zach Braff plays Andrew “Large” Largeman, a moderately successful actor (he played “the retarded guy” on a TV show) who returns to his home town in New Jersey after an absence of nine years, in order to attend his mother’s funeral.

Having been on anti-depressants his whole life (largely thanks to his emotionally distant psychiatrist father, Ian Holm), Large uses the trip as an opportunity to wean himself off the drugs and he suddenly finds himself taking an interest in the world again. His interest is piqued still further by his developing relationship with Sam (Natalie Portman), a girl he meets in the doctor’s waiting room.

Braff has made no secret of the fact that he was influenced by such films as Harold & Maude and The Graduate (the use of Simon and Garfunkel on the soundtrack is a bit of a giveaway), but presumably, he also watched David Gordon Green’s movies and one would guess he’s seen Beautiful Girls (which also starred Natalie Portman) way too many more times than can be considered healthy.

Portman Deserves Oscar Nomination At Least

The performances are excellent: Braff’s vaguely blank, inexpressive face is perfect for someone who’s just waking up to life and Peter Sarsgaard turns in a typically strong performance as Mark, Large’s friend from high school who now works as a grave-digger and part-time hustler.

There’s also great support from Ian Holm and Jean Smart as Mark’s mother. However, the stand-out performance belongs to Natalie Portman – the screen literally lights up whenever she’s around. It’s a lively, quirky, adorable part that, if there’s any justice, ought to earn her a Best Supporting Actress nomination at the very least.

There’s a lot to enjoy here. There are several off the wall moments (a visit to one of Mark’s friends is particularly bizarre), some great lines and some truly delightful scenes, including one of the best kissing scenes in recent memory.

To sum up, Garden State is a thoroughly enjoyable, quirky, romantic film that achieves a perfect balance between comedy and drama. As such it’ll leave you eager to see what Braff comes up with next. In addition, it’s practically guaranteed to achieve cult status amongst its target audience – it’s already at number 186 in the Imdb’s All Time Top 250 Films and that’s got to mean something. Great soundtrack too. Highly recommended.

Film Trailer

Garden State (15)
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Content updated: 12/12/2017 12:15

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